In Houston, Washington's dream season meets an unsatisfying conclusion
Michigan wins, 34-13, and the Huskies fall one win shy of a national title.
HOUSTON — The strength coach made sure his players saw a friendly face as they disembarked this thrill ride and the confetti fell behind them for somebody else. Ron McKeefery stood just up the tunnel at NRG Stadium, offering encouragement to each Washington player who approached with bleary eyes. The longest hug went to senior linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio. He held himself together until McKeefery pulled him close.
Moments prior, Michael Penix Jr. had limped past, a black towel tucked under his helmet to shield his face, Kalen DeBoer walking alongside the superstar quarterback with the coach’s family not far behind.
These were the Washington Huskies like you’ve never seen them, at least not in 2023, a season so charmed that anything shy of victory in Monday’s national championship game seemed almost at odds with destiny.
Instead, the Huskies met with this unsatisfying final chapter, a 34-13 defeat to No. 1 Michigan that spoiled their bid for an unbeaten season and the first outright national title in school history. It felt like Michigan put Washington in a box on Monday, dominating the line of scrimmage defensively, busting open a two-score lead in the first quarter and grounding a UW passing game that had brought the Huskies to college football’s most coveted doorstep.
“We just didn’t execute. It’s as simple as that,” left tackle Troy Fautanu said. “Props to Michigan. Props to the defensive coordinator. They brought everything at the right time, and we just couldn’t figure it out, as you can tell by the score.”